March 24, 2006

In defense of a cardinal who's trying

Chicago Sun-Times

March 24, 2006


A careful reading of the two reports on sexual abuse that the archdiocese recently commissioned persuades me that the cardinal's problem is not that he attempted a personal coverup but that he was unable to control his bureaucracy -- a not uncommon problem in corporate organizations.

In fact the Defenbaugh report says quite explicitly in an opening paragraph the cardinal did not know all he needed to know about the priest in question because he was not advised of the information available to his staff. Since the buck stops on his desk, it was proper for him to assume responsibility for the failure and to apologize for it.

I must relate some personal history as a credential for this position. In 1986, in the paperback edition of my book Confessions of a Parish Priest, I warned the church that the sexual abuse of young people by priests was a ticking time bomb. Since then I've written at least 20 columns for this paper on the subject, in one of which I outlined a reform proposal which was quite similar to the one Cardinal Bernardin implemented in the early 1990s. Two of my books on the subject, one fiction, one sociology, are currently in the bookstores. I am and always have been on the side of the victims, though not of the victims groups. My fellow priests in Chicago have never forgiven me because I washed dirty linen in public.

Posted by kshaw at March 24, 2006 06:47 AM